Foods to avoid feeding to a baby

Learn about foods to avoid during a baby’s first year and the latest allergen recommendations.

A baby eating in a highchair.
Photo: Pexels/Helena Lopes.

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests infants begin solid food around six months of age or when showing signs that they are developmentally ready. This should be done along with breast milk or formula to make sure all the nutrients that the infant requires are met for healthy growth and development. Solid food at this stage should include nutritious, texture-appropriate fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can be introduced. However, once a baby becomes developmentally ready for solid foods, there are certain foods to avoid feeding the baby before their first birthday. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are some foods that should be avoided the first year. Some recommendations are for keeping your child healthy, and others are to keep you baby safe. This is not an all-inclusive list; for more information on foods to avoid, speak to the baby’s pediatrician.

Food item

Reason to avoid feeding to infants

Fruit juices

May contribute to weight gain or cavities.

Cow’s milk

Too much protein may harm a baby’s developing kidneys, and does not contain the appropriate amount of nutrients needed.

Caffeine, including tea, coffee, or chocolate

There is no established safe limit for caffeine in babies or young children.

Added sugars or desserts, including infant food desserts

Contain empty calories and can fill infants up before they can eat nutrient dense foods necessary for growth and development.

Honey or foods made with honey

Increased risk for botulism in children under age one.

Unpasteurized foods including raw milk, cider and other juices

Increases risk for foodborne illness.

High sodium foods

Excess intake of this mineral has been associated with increased risk of chronic disease.

Fish high in mercury

Mercury is a heavy metal that can be in some fish and can deposit in their brain and nervous system.

According to recent studies, delaying the introduction of allergenic foods may raise the chance of developing a food allergy. Supported by an increasing amount of research, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies should be exposed to allergens in foods containing peanuts at a young age in order to avoid peanut allergies. However, talk with the baby’s pediatrician first before making changes to a baby’s diet, especially if you have a family history of a food allergy. Keep track of everything your baby eats, as you introduce new foods, offer one at a time. Wait a couple of days and watch for reactions before introducing another new food. Serve single-grain infant cereals and plain fruits, vegetables, and meats instead of mixed varieties. If your baby has a reaction to a certain food, avoid feeding the baby that food.

Avoid giving a baby any foods which pose a choking hazard. These include:

  • Candy (especially hard or sticky candy).
  • Raw vegetables such as celery or carrots.
  • Cheese cubes.
  • Chips, pretzels and snack foods.
  • Dried fruits.
  • Fruit with skin and/or seeds.
  • Hot dogs.
  • Large pieces or chunks of food.
  • Marshmallows.
  • Peanuts and tree nuts (unless in a form safe for baby, such as ground).
  • Popcorn.
  • Whole grapes, cherries or cherry tomatoes.

For more information on food safety during infancy, visit MSU Extension's Safe Food = Healthy Babies website for resources and articles.

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